Other Notable Cases

A major Irish whiskey producer tries to muscle in on Kieran Folliard’s business, Delta Airlines punishes a local rabbi for too many complaints, and Milavetz, nipped by a scam, sues a bank to recover.

Don’t Mess With an Irishman and His Whiskey

Don’t get between an Irishman and his words and never get between him and his whiskey. Pernod Ricard, national distributor of Jameson Irish Whiskey, which should know better, managed to do both.

And they did it to Minnesota restaurant legend Kieran Folliard, not a guy who likes being pushed around.

Folliard, the former owner of the Local and three other Irish restaurants/bars—the Liffey, Cooper’s Pub, and Kieran’s—invented and marketed a drink in his restaurants called the “big ginger.” The drink, originally a mixture of Jameson whiskey and ginger and citrus juices, has been wildly popular and helped make the Local the largest on-site seller of Jameson whiskey in the world. Almost 75 percent of the Local’s Jameson is consumed in big ginger drinks, and not a small amount of that around St. Patrick’s Day.

But when his profit margins began getting squeezed, Folliard switched from using Jameson in his famous drink to a whiskey of his own making: 2 Gingers Whiskey. This did not set well with Jameson, which came out with its own new cocktail called Big Jameson Ginger.

Folliard immediately sued, and his lawyer, Fulbright & Jaworski attorney Timothy Kenny, decided to take the unusual move of requesting a temporary restraining order. “We did it because this happened so near to St. Patrick’s Day,” Kenny says. And the law seemed pretty clear to Kenny and Folliard: In 2009, Folliard had a trademark issued on the words “big” and “ginger” for any cocktail. All Jameson did, Kenny says, was slip their name in the middle of those two words.

Evidently Jameson came to see things Kenny’s way, as within a week of Folliard’s lawsuit, a settlement was reached.

The High Cost of Kvetching

In Yiddish, the word “finagler” means “a schemer or a manipulator.” And that’s how Northwest Airlines, now Delta, pegged one of its frequent-flier passengers, Minneapolis Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg. He may be a frequent flier, but to Delta he’s a frequent grumbler. After complaining to Northwest 24 times in a seven-month period in 2008, the airline had had it. Not only did Ginsberg complain, says Delta, but he also “continually asked for compensation”—and that after the airline had given him almost $2,000 in travel vouchers, 78,500 bonus miles, and $491 in cash reimbursements. Northwest did not want to be finagled and tossed Ginsberg, who had already reached the airlines highest frequent flier status (platinum), out of their program. He lost both his status and all the frequent flier miles he had built up. The rabbi sued.

Attorney Thatcher Stone, who represents Ginsberg, told the Pioneer Press that his client’s only sin “was to complain about lousy service. He did what Delta and Northwest told him to do—call them up and complain when service was lousy.”

In 2011, a district court ruled in favor of the airline. That decision was appealed and reversed by the ninth circuit court, and the suit has been twisting through the court system since then. After the airlines lost on a rehearing, they have advised that they will seek a review of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Stone says that if they do seek such a review, Ginsberg will oppose the request.

And if he loses his case in the Supreme Court? No higher courts the rabbi can complain to, at least on this earthly plane.

Internet Cheats Take In a Local Firm

Few things make us feel more smug than “experts” falling for the same baloney as the rest of us. So when it was revealed that the law firm Milavetz Gallop & Milavetz (MGM) was hit by an Internet scam—to the tune of almost $400,000—the Internet lit up with jeers and sniggering. Milavetz refused our requests to talk about the case.

But the law firm is hardly the first to fall for this kind of scam. Over the last few years, more than 200 lawyers or law firms across the country have been taken in by scammers, with a total loss of at least $70 million dollars, according the Wall Street Journal.

In the MGM case, it began in 2009 with a con man posing over the Internet as a 40-year-old Korean woman. The poser claimed “she” was injured in an accident while visiting Minnesota and was owed money from a settlement. She was now back home and could not collect the money herself—would Milavetz collect it for her? Easy money. Milavetz demanded payment from the debtor, who was actually an ally in the scheme. The “debtor” sent in a check, the law firm deducted its fees, and wired the remainder of the money to the Korean woman’s bank account in Hong Kong. Then the “debtor’s” check bounced, leaving Milavetz holding an almost $400,000 bag.

In the aftermath, Milavetz confirmed the check they received from the “debtor” had cleared Wells Fargo before they wired the money to Hong Kong; the bank said it had. There were irregularities in the check that Milavetz says the bank should have noticed—it was allegedly from Citibank but the branch’s address on the check was misspelled, according to the suit.

“Wells Fargo knew that the $400,000 check MGM had deposited into its trust account was fraudulent at least three days prior to the wire transfer,” the suit alleges, according to the Star Tribune, “and MGM did not receive notice of this information until approximately one week after Wells Fargo sent the wire transfer.”

Wells Fargo spokesperson Peggy Gunn says, “We believe the allegations that have been made have no merit.” A court date has not yet been set.